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Nun Danket Alle Gott
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Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott
Georg Philip TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Sey tausendmal wilkommen TVW 13:9a (Cantata for soprano) [22:19]
Johann WALTER (1496-1570)
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (instrumental) [0:51]
Trio Sonata in E minor TWV 42:e8 [6:52]
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (tenor and trombone) [1:04]
Trio Sonata in E minor TWV 42:e7 [7:29]
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott TVWV 8:7 (Motet for four voices) [5:30]
Quartet Sonata in G major TWV 43:G13 [8:09]
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (four voices) [0:51]
Du bleibest dennoch unser Gott TVWV 13:9b (Cantata for soprano and bass) [16:23]
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (instrumental) [0:53]
Robin Johannsen (soprano), Alexander Seidel (alto), Holger Marks (tenor), Wolf Matthias Friedrich (bass)
Concerto Melante/Raimar Orlovsky (violin and direction)
rec. May-October, 2016, at Jesus-Christ-Kirche Berlin-Dahlem
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 88985347982 [70:31]

This interesting recording brings together two important commemorations: the whole of Germany is making a tremendous and wholly justifiable fuss about the beginnings of the Reformed Church in 1517, when Martin Luther posted his ninety-five ‘theses’ on the door of Wittenberger church castle.

A slightly more muted celebration is that of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Georg Philip Telemann’s birth. The composer is represented by two short cantatas and three sonatas, while we also have music from the less well-known Johann Walter. This composer-poet was a close confederate of Martin Luther’s, and was responsible for early settings of Luther’s most famous chorale, Ein feste Burg. It was a nice idea to intersperse the Telemann pieces with various settings of the famous chorale by Walter, tiny and insubstantial though these may be.

The booklet notes make the point that this year, 2017, is of course not the first time Luther’s reforms have been celebrated. In 1730, two hundred years after the Augsburg Confession, Telemann organised a festival in Hamburg to mark the occasion, and composed the two short cantatas featured on this disc. The first, Sey tausendmal wilkommen, begins with an attractive Sinfonia in the style of a French overture, and in this we get an impression of the fine qualities of this young ensemble, Concerto Melante (about whom you can find out more at www.melante.de). They are joined by the vivacious singing of American soprano Robin Johanssen, who brings lively alert rhythm and articulation to the florid vocal writing, and has splendidly clear diction - a quality not always notable amongst sopranos. She’s also good at the dramatic recitatives between the arias, suggesting we might have a rising operatic star here.

Walter’s brief Ein feste Burg arrangement for strings is followed by the rather wonderful E minor Trio Sonata of Telemann, whose Affettuoso opening movement has some notably strange harmonies. The playing from Concerto Melante is top class; totally stylish, yet packed with vitality.

Walter’s Ein feste Burg arrangement for tenor and trombone, with positive organ puffing away in the background, is an interesting novelty, and a brief one at just sixty-four seconds.

The next two Telemann Sonatas feature wind instruments; a flute in TWV 42:e7, a flute and an oboe d’amore in the Quartet Sonata TWV 43:G13. The latter is a truly delightful piece, where you can feel Telemann working towards a galant style, and therefore closer to Haydn and Mozart. Again, the playing of all concerned is quite superb, and an added bonus is that none of the movements outstays its welcome. This is a great piece for refuting those who ignorantly claim Telemann to be a hack and a journeyman; elegant, imaginative music.

In the final cantata, Du bleibest dennoch unser Gott, Robin Johannsesn is joined by the fresh-voiced bass (according to the booklet – he sounds more like a lightish baritone to me) Wolf Matthias Friedrich, and they prove an ideally matched pair.

This is a delightful and attractive disc, as well as boasting an intelligent and unusual programme.

Gwyn Parry-Jones



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